Re S (A child): 'Chillingly callous'

The case of Re S (A Child) [2010] EWHC 1669 (Fam) is, sadly, a familiar story.

The facts: On the 14th February 2008 there was an arranged marriage in Pakistan between the father, a British citizen of Pakistani origin, and the mother, a Pakistani citizen. Soon after the marriage the father returned to this country and applied for a spousal visa for the mother. This was granted and the mother came to this country on 12th October 2008, where she lived with the father at his parents' home. The child was born in January of this year, but the marriage foundered. On 8th March 2010 the father, the mother and the paternal grandparents travelled to Pakistan. The father then left the mother at her family home, took her passport and Pakistani ID card and returned to this country on 10th March. The mother applied ex parte for the child to be made a ward of court, and this order was made on the 31st March.

The mother alleged that she was deliberately abandoned and separated from her child by the father and grandfather, and that this had been planned before she left this country. Both the father and grandfather deny any wrongdoing or any such plan or intention but the father accepted that, when he left the mother at her family home, he had possession of her passport and ID card and did not return them to her.

Held: Mrs Justice Hogg found that there was a deliberate plan by the father and his parents to separate the mother from her child and abandon her in Pakistan. She described this (at paragraph 59) as "a chillingly callous way of behaving towards a young and new mother and towards a very young newborn baby", and went on:

"Sadly, this is not the first case where I have encountered allegations of deliberate separation of child and mother by the paternal family. I know that other judges of this division have encountered similar cases and made similar findings as I have done in this judgment. To separate a mother and child in this way is emotionally harmful to the child and remains so for so long as the child is deprived of the mother. It is something which is abhorrent and unfeeling towards a child and mother. It is selfish and cruel by those who do it."

Mrs Justice Hogg also noted the fact that the mother was unable to return to this country for the hearing and therefore had to give evidence by video link, adding significant additional costs which will be borne by the taxpayer, the mother being in receipt of legal aid. She commented that it would have been cheaper for the Legal Services Commission to have funded her ticket back than to face those additional costs. She went on to indicate that in her view the mother should be allowed to attend any future hearing, when it is decided where and with whom the child should live, and made a "plea to the ministers concerned that there should be some consideration as to what arrangements can be put in place to assist mothers to return to this country where allegations similar to those made in this case and where proceedings are in being and hearings are listed".


  1. What if anything can the courts do to deter or penalise this sort of behaviour, John?

  2. Difficult, Carl, particularly as immigration issues are beyond their powers. They can, of course, make a residence order in favour of the mother, and this sort of callous disregard for the child would I'm sure go against the father.


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